Belfast Telegraph

Why Trierweiler has been cast as the femme fatale

By Harriet Walker

British women have long been scared of their French counterparts. If not scared, then suspicious. And if not suspicious, then (go on, admit it) just a tiny bit jealous.

They're well put together; they're immaculately chic; they're rail-thin, in spite of breakfasting on croissants and Dauphinoise potatoes. How on earth do they manage it?

Well, they dress up because they're after your husband and they burn off all those calories with their evil scheming, if we're to believe the Daily Mail's Samantha Brick on the matter. Yes, she's back - and she's got it in for France's new First Lady, the very figurehead of witchy Gallic wiles, according to Brick, who is, of course, renowned for being the woman who thinks she's more beautiful than anyone else. Even the BBC has stooped to it, a reporter referring to Valerie Trierweiler's having "stolen" Francois Hollande from his wife, the former presidential candidate Segolene Royal.

As a journalist and curtain-twitcher, I appreciate the succulence of this particular backstory.

But how disappointing that, as one of the more enlightened French presidents of recent years steps forward to take his place, the Dark Ages should fall on the City of Light.

I'm not talking about the Eurocalypse - or even about Eurovision - but about the all-eclipsing scorn and fear surrounding the new arrival's partner, Trierweiler, known to many as The Rottweiler, and - apparently - our latter-day She-Wolf of France.

There she stands, gloatingly triumphant over La Republic and le wronged former spouse, both resplendent in an entirely unprovocative white coat and knee-length black dress, cleverly captured by an opportunistic lens during a gust of wind that has brazenly displayed the upper-leg seam on her natural tan tights.

There she stands next to Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, formerly the nation's foremost self-publicising, incendiary strumpet, now defeated in an ill-fitting suit. According to the stereotype, if you happen to be a French woman, you're either Manon des Sources or Belle de Jour; an ingenue or a femme fatale.

But last week's photo-op outside the Elysee Palace for Hollande and the female members of his cabinet - all 17 of them - is proof that this is not really the abiding feeling within his country.

In France, femininity is not a problem and it can and does come with a side order of flintiness. Here, if you're anything less than soft and pliable, you're a harridan.

You can be successful and serious, or sexy, but not both like Rachida Dati. Over here, you're either Holly Willoughby or you're Harriet Harman.

No wonder Samantha Brick dislikes French women so much; they're clearly much more secure than she is. There's a lesson to be learned here and we won't find the answer by baiting The Rottweiler.

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